Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Retro Movie Review: "Broken Flowers"

Remember comedian Bill Murray? You know, the guy who was on SNL, in Stripes and Ghostbusters? Yeah, he doesn't exist anymore. In his place, is a new Bill Murray: the quiet, solemn actor who picks roles that seem to have his character as a sadsack, lost in his own life. We saw it in Lost In Translation and we see it in the 2005 film Broken Flowers.

In Broken Flowers, Murray plays Don, who hates it when people call him Don Juan, but he is one: he loves girls, but he isn't flirty. He just seems to latch onto one or two, loves them for a short period of time, then he or they leave him. When his latest girlfriend leaves him, he can't even muster up the emotional heft to make it seem like he is affected by it. Of course, coinciding with his girlfriend leaving, he finds a letter, unsigned, saying he has a 19 year-old son from a previous relationship.

For about a quarter of the movie, Murray's character, speaking softly and often remaining still, debates with a more animated friend over whether or not to seek out the mother of his rumored son. Don does not know whether or not he actually has a son or who the mother may be (he dated some 5 women back then). Eventually, he drags himself to visit all five of them (one of them is dead). Of course, being a low-key, independent movie, things don't go so well (or so exciting). Much like Vincent Gallo's The Brown Bunny, there are long scenes of Murray just driving.

That's not to say the movie isn't good, it certainly has its moments and is well made. I am just a little bored of these character study roles that Murray has been taking lately. In fact, I am a little bored of most independent movies, with a big-name lead actor, taking the character study approach. About Schmidt is another good example of a big name (in that case, Jack Nicolson) just slogging through the movie. And typically, these movies never end on an up note, it has to end on a down note, cause that's how life is.

Anyways, the movie is fine for what it is, with some good performances by Sharon Stone (not being crazy!) and Tilda Swinton (actually looking normal for a change!). Nill Murray does a fine job in a what is basically another twist on his role in LiT.

2 1/2 Pink Flowers out of 5.

Labels: , ,

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Lost Discussion

Oh boy, it has been a while! I recently wrote up a little dissertation about Lost on another website, so I thought I'd share it with you all. Whoever is still remaining that is.

I want to talk about why I like Lost. When Lost first premiered, I didn’t watch. I was somewhat interested in the show, but I had a class that ended at 8 PM, the timeslot that Lost first was run in. Since I didn’t want to rush home to watch a new show, I decided to take a wait and see approach to it. My parents watched the show, and every so often I would ask how they liked it. They seemed to enjoy it, and since we didn’t watch The West Wing together anymore, I decided that when Lost came out on DVD, I would make it our new family show.

So I requested Season 1 on DVD from Netflix when it came out. I get one disc at a time, so at first I got Disc 1 only. I watched all four episodes in one day and was entranced and enthralled. I quickly returned the disc and got Disc 2 a few days later. Well, I flew through those episodes and I knew I could not wait a few more days for Disc 3 and certainly couldn’t fathom not being able to watch Discs 4-6 as soon as I wanted to. So I dropped Disc 2 in the mailbox and immediately went over to Best Buy for the set. Of course, as I watch each season in real time, that agonizing wait between discs, which was only a few days, is now stretched to a week for each episode.

Why did I feel this urge? What draws me to Lost? I think the very nature of the show: it is a serial. I have watched other hour long dramas before (the aforementioned West Wing and The X-Files among others), but none of them felt like each episode lead into another. Even The X-Files, with its overarcing story and conspiracy still had the bulk of its episodes as “standalones”. Lost’s episodes, even ones that seems like filler, always have one or two plot points that continue to play out over the next few episodes. And sometimes these episodes that appear to be standalones at first glance, turn into important episodes later (the most recent, and famous, example, is the Hurley episode from this past season, Season 3. Hurley finds a VW Bus and repairs it, and everyone has a fun time in that episode. But it really didn’t seem to matter that much, until that VW was shown to play a role in Ben’s backstory and was turned into a weapon by Hurley himself in the season finale). So not only is Lost to me a watercooler show, one I can discuss with my family and friends, but it is truly a can’t miss one.

And it rewards the vigilant viewer. Names that are thrown out in one episode take on a different meaning later (Ethan Rom becomes Other Man, a clue to his story). Mittelos Biotech is an anagram for Lost Time. Characters appear and disappear, both the main characters (death is but a doorway in Lost) and minor characters. If you are OCD about something, and that something is Lost, you will be rewarded by Easter Eggs and little details. One can enjoy it on two levels: a purely on the surface level and an in-depth, casting light into shadowed corners one. The writers aren’t afraid to dirty up once pristine characters (Jack, Sun) or make characters both sympathetic and ambiguous (Locke, Sawyer). Their use of science fiction and fantasy serves the story and not the other way around (which is sometimes frustrating to some, as these elements may appear from nowhere and not make sense). There is a sense of mythology to this show that we only get a few fleeting glimpses of during the course of a season. And I like the mysteries, I like speculating about what is going on then watching the episodes to see if any clues are revealed that may reinforce or deny my theories.

So where do the writers go from here?

If the first season set up the main characters and the setting, then the last two seasons explored those characters and other people in that setting, I think the final 3 seasons will examine the Island. In the season finale of Season 3, we get the first of a new plot device for Lost: a flashforward instead of a flashback. In this flashforward, we see Jack as a drug-addicted, obsessed man. What is he obsessed about? Returning to the Island. I think the flashforwards and the “rescuers” who appeared in the season finale will be used to explain what makes the Island so special. Why does Jack feel the need to return, while Kate does not? Why was the Island seemingly covered up?

As the explanations come, I do not expect every little mystery to be solved. I think about 80% of them will be touched upon. The remaining 20% will remain unanswered and will probably include one major mystery (perhaps why the Island seems to attract people or why it seems everyone was connected before the flight). I believe we will learn that the Hostiles (the original Others, before Ben joined them) are the native inhabitants of the Island and know the most about its mystical powers. However, to them, it is a religious reason, no a scientific one; hence, some explanations will not have a hard explanation to them. I also believe we will learn that the Island is known to the outside world, but is constantly covered up by a powerful organization (think the conspiracies associated with the Free Masons) or its location is lost from time to time. In other words, it is an Atlantis type of deal, a mythical island, only it has been found time and time again, only to disappear into the ether.

On the character side, I think we will see Sawyer fall a little, as his primary reason for living (revenge) has been sated. We saw this fall begin in the season finale, with his killing of Tom. Jack will fall too, as seen by his flashforward, as his rescue attempt puts them in a worse situation. Locke will become the new “chosen one” of the Island, replacing Ben, who has been abusing the Island’s power. Kate will become as strong as she was in Season 1, Desmond will not run away from his fears, Sun and Jin will get off the Island, but be trapped by Sun’s father, Hurley and Sayid will step up as leaders as Locke, Sawyer, and Jack fall of the board. And Claire and Aaron? Something will happen to them to remind us that Claire was warned about the dangerous situation that Aaron may be liable to cause. Maybe have the rescuers take Aaron away to be raised by another.

What do I think should happen?

Don’t have Jack and company join with The Others to combat the threat that the rescuers are rumored to represent. Have them join the rescuers, wipe out The Others, then learn about the consequences (This may have been hinted at in Jack’s flashforward). Have any actions in these flashforwards reflect the action going on in “real time”. Have Jack’s journey back be a dark mirror of his journey off.

Have Locke and Ben unlock the mysteries of the Island. But also include a “nonbeliever”. There needs to be a skeptic to challenge what is going on, to keep the mysteries grounded and not too farfetched. Reveal that the Island is Eden, Purgatory, and Hell, figuratively speaking. That this place is a point on Earth where dreams, hopes, and fears can come true (of course, don’t state it like that. Use The Others’ religious views to explain it as such). The Island is simply a conduit for some unknown power that taps into the human psyche. Dharma doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of the Island, they were just the latest group to try to subvert its energy.

Finally, through the use of flashforwards, show what people have learned from their experience on the Island. Jack is nuts, and Kate seems resigned. This is a more ludicrous, really sci-fi ending I have in mind, but have it so as the actions in the present time start to butt up against and parallel the future events, have each character experience an epiphany. These epiphanies lead to this ending: time “resetting” itself, having everyone, even the deceased characters now alive again, return to their “point of origin”. So everyone is back on Oceanic 815 that should be, Desmond is back with Penny, etc. The difference now is that these people remember their experience on the Island. They look at each and know what they have experienced is real. Jin can speak English better now. Locke can walk. Claire has given birth. But they are put back on that faithful flight. The Island didn’t give them a second chance, but rather, it gave them the opportunity to grow. In the end, it is up to each individual to change in the setting where they never did before.

Labels: , , , ,